East Asia Theater
In Episode 78 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers a report and analysis of the "100 Years of Chinese Communist Party Oppression" rally outside the Chinese consulate in New York City, jointly organized by groups including Project Black Mask Hong Kong, Students for a Free Tibet, the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress NY-NJ, and the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. But amid all the cries to free Hong Kong, free Tibet, free East Turkestan and free Southern Mongolia, it was only Tiananmen Square massacre survivor Fengsou Zhou of the group Humanitarian China who raised the demand "Free China!" Will liberation of the Hongkongers, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Southern Mongolians be possible without building solidarity against the dictatorship with Han Chinese? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Hong Kong police arrested 11 people for distributing "seditious publications" on July 1, as the force erected tight cordons across the city on the 24th anniversary of its handover to China. Citing pandemic restrictions, the Security Bureau warned that those taking part in unauthorized demonstrations may face jail. Police pre-emptively sealed off Victoria Park—the traditional starting point for pro-democracy marches on that date—saying there had been calls online for people to join an unauthorized assembly there. But there were scattered small gatherings at other points around the city. The 11 arrests took place in Mong Kok commercial district, where a group of activists distributed leaflets. They were detained under the Crimes Ordinance, which dates to the British colonial era. Those arrested include Student Politicism leaders Wong Yat-chin and Chan Chi-sum.
For the second year running, authorities in Hong Kong banned the annual June 4 vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Citing the ongoing restrictions imposed to contain COVID-19, hundreds of police officers closed off Victoria Park, where the vigil has traditionally been held, and dispersed crowds who gathered with candles or their phone lights lit. Police also arrested activist Chow Hang Tung, vice chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organizes the annual vigil. She faces charges of promoting an unauthorized assembly. Authorities warned that under the Public Order Ordinance, those attempting to attend the vigil could face five years in prison, or one year for promoting it. Last year, activists successfully defied the ban, so this marked the first year that no commemoration of the massacre was held in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong and three others pleaded guilty on April 30 to charges related to their participation in last year's June 4 vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre. Wong, one of the city's most prominent pro-democracy advocates, is already serving a term of 17 months in prison. Last December, he was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment for organizing an illegal assembly during the height of the 2019 anti-government protests. This sentence was extended by four months on April 13 after Wong pleaded guilty to fresh charges of unauthorized assembly and violating an anti-mask law.
A rally in Tokyo on April 22 highlighted opposition to a proposed immigration law currently under consideration in Japan's National Diet, seen as a yet further tightening of the country's already highly selective refugee system. The rally, under the slogan "Open the Gate for All," was organized by opposition lawmakers and human rights organizations including Amnesty International Japan and the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, all seeking to halt the legislation currently under consideration in the Diet. The proposed reform would permit asylum-seekers to be deported after a third failed application, and introduce new procedures for forcible deportation of individuals who entered Japan illegally or overstayed their visas. As the bill includes no cap on the length of detention or judicial review of cases, it has been criticized by human rights experts at the United Nations.
Ten veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy activists—all aged 60 or older—were sentenced on April 16 for participating in two unpermitted demonstrations, both in August 2019. They include Martin Lee, 82, hailed as Hong Kong's "Father of Democracy," and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, 73, who both received suspended sentences. Newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai, 72, will have to serve 14 months in prison. Also receiving between eight and 18 months were Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Yeung Sum, Au Nok-Hin and Leung Kwok-hung. The sentences fell short of the maximum of five years the defendants had faced. But Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra said: "The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these 10 activists underlines the Hong Kong government's intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city." (BBC News, NYT, Al Jazeera, Amnesty International)
A Hong Kong court on April 1 found seven prominent democracy activists guilty of unauthorized assembly for their involvement in a 2019 peaceful anti-government protest. The defendants, all 60 years or older, include media figure Jimmy Lai and veteran Democratic Party lawmaker Martin Lee, hailed as Hong Kong's "Father of Democracy." Also appearing in the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court were former Labour Party lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan and Cyd Ho, former League of Social Democrats lawmaker "Longair" Leung Kwok-hung, former Civic Party lawmaker Margaret Ng, and former Democratic Party chair Albert Ho. "Shame on political prosecution! Peaceful demonstration is not a crime!" Leung Kwok-hung shouted from dock after the conviction was delivered.
Li Qiaochu, a feminist, labor researcher, and human rights defender who has especially advocated for the rights of migrant workers in China, is being held incommunicado following her arrest for "subversion of state power." Li was detained Feb. 6 in Beijing, where she lives, and taken to Linyi city in Shandong province, where her partner and fellow human rights defender Xu Zhiyong is also detained and facing the same charge. Li's detention follows her disclosure of Xu's torture and mistreatment in detention. On Feb. 19, Li's lawyer formally requested that the Linyi Municipal Public Security Bureau grant access to her, and was told she is being held in quarantine at a local hospital. She is apparently to be transferred to the Linyi Municipal Detention Center once the quarantine is completed.